School-based enterprises deliver the goods – in many ways 

In one community, it’s a business that does precision machining for local manufacturers. In another, it’s a small operation that makes gates and metal tree grates for private and municipal uses. In other Indiana towns and cities, these businesses churn out screen-printed shirts, furniture and more, serving as subcontractors for local manufacturers or selling directly to customers. 

Regardless of what they manufacture or where they sell it, these operations all have one thing in common: They’re operated out of schools, by students, and are one of the most powerful tools that schools can use to encourage more students to consider a career in advanced manufacturing and logistics. 

Indiana businesses benefit as well. In addition to simply introducing students to possible careers in advanced manufacturing, these school-based enterprises (SBEs) produce students who – whether they pursue post-secondary learning or go directly into the workforce – begin their careers with stronger hard and soft workplace skills.  

While SBEs are built to mimic the environment of a manufacturing company, nothing can compare to the experience of the real thing. Manufacturers who actively engage with their local SBE—by hosting on-site tours, visiting the classroom, serving as mentors, influencing operations and supplying materials or equipment—can directly impact the talent divide in their local communities and attract potential future employees who have already expressed an interest in the field.  

“Manufacturers have so many opportunities to work with their communities to create a talent pipeline and plug into programs already underway in their local schools,” said Conexus Indiana Senior Director of K-16 Education, Kyle Marshall. “School-based enterprises provide unprecedented value for manufacturers whether that is using the student operations to make a product or it is working with the students to encourage them to pursue pathways that lead to employment.” 

Not only do students get hands-on experience making products, but they also learn about the many facets of an advanced manufacturing and logistics operation. Because the enterprise operates as a business, students learn about marketing and financial management, ordering raw materials, planning production schedules, programming advanced manufacturing equipment and more. 

“Businesses that see the value of SBEs are responding by supporting them in a variety of ways, from serving on advisory boards to supplying them with raw materials, high-tech equipment and more. At the highest level of these relationships are businesses that make SBEs vendors in their supply chain,” says Nikki Jagow, Conexus Indiana’s manager of Talent Programs. 

Over the summer, Conexus Indiana will feature in its newsletter the work being done by Indiana’s SBEs and highlight ways local manufacturers are supporting – and benefiting from – the hands-on, experience-based learning taking place in high schools around the state.  

To learn more about work being done by SBEs in Madison, Switz City and Leopold, Indiana, read these stories on our blog.  

If you’re a business interested in supporting SBEs or a school working to grow its SBE, contact Kyle Marshall at to see how Conexus Indiana can help.